December 15, 2008

Witnessing Worship

God's people have done serious injustice to many of the terms and words that are integral to our faith and the way we live life. We have done wonders of confusing things even more than ever. For instance, think back to your childhood (if you grew up in "the church") and remember the old poetic chant: "Here's the church, here's the steeple, open the door and there's all the people!" Hands folded, we began with "Here's the church...". From that very young impressionable age we were being taught that the church was a building - that you opened the door to "the church" and there were all the people. Wrong. 

The church is not a building. The Church is the people of God - WE are the church.

In addition to our verbal butchering of "the church", we have created a horribly shallow and safe idea of the meaning of "worship". When you say the word worship, most people in the church - most Christians - think you're automatically talking about music. "Are you coming to the worship service this morning?" "What style of worship does your church do?" "We don't raise our hands when we worship!" We stand guilty as charged of not only confusing the rest of the world as to what the Lord himself calls and identifies as "worship", but we've confused ourselves to the point that we don't even know what we're talking about anymore.

I believe that over the last few days I have witnessed "worship". It has not been in or through something that I (or anyone for that matter) would have chosen or desired. Basically, I've come to my parents home to assist my Mom in making sure that my Dad can die peacefully and with dignity. You don't think about these things until they camp out at your doorstep and begin knocking. The whole experience so far keeps leading me back to Isaiah 58.

The Lord comes with great indignation and lets His people know that so many of their "pious acts" and their "fasting and penance" is like noise and static to Him. Why? Because while they're fasting and praying and singing...they're fighting among themselves...they're going through the motions...they're still living for themselves. Does this sound like some of us? Some of our churches? Could it be we think we're worshiping...and we only sound like noise?

God's response to this is to tell us what true worship looks like to Him: freeing those who are wrongly imprisoned, welcoming and caring for the poor and hungry, giving clothes to those who need them, and - please don't miss this - NOT HIDING FROM RELATIVES WHO NEED OUR HELP. Paul exhorts Timothy (and us) that "those who won't care for their own relatives...have denied what we believe." Worship is starting to look a little different.

My Dad has exemplified Isaiah 58 with his life. Many Sundays as I was growing up I wouldn't see him in the "worship service". I would wonder, "Does my Dad just not like to praise God?" Yes, I would seriously question this. Well, the reason he usually wasn't present is because he was in a room praying with someone or counseling them, or in the parking lot helping someone jump-start their car, or listening to someone who just needed an ear. My Dad worshiped - he just did it more with actions than with words. Now I am watching my Mom exemplify this as my Dad's body is rapidly and brutally sucking the life out of him. I believe that she has determined that this man who has lived his life attempting to live and serve well also deserves to die well. I know that's not a comfortable or attractive talking point over coffee...but there are times that life says, "I don't really care what you're comfortable with!"

Sitting here, wiping someone's face, bringing them tea, rubbing their back, trying to answer their semi-incoherent question, "What is happening to me?" - this doesn't feel like worship. But I believe that it is resonating in heaven and bringing joy to the heart of the One who will eventually say, "Jerry, it's time. Let's go home."

May our actions and our lives be worship. Because the Lord says, "If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. 'Yes I am here,' He will quickly reply."

Isaiah 58
1 Timothy 5 


Keith said...

Brian, I'm sure that your worship is a sweet smelling perfume to God. Worship is a matter of the mind and heart - informed, studied, decided, and passionate, caring, giving - to God and His children who need His word and touch on this Earth.

My heart aches for you and your family in the midst of all this.

brian said...

Brian, we were sorry to hear of your loss. I hope your family has felt GOD's comfort during this difficult time. You are in our prayers.

Brian Cinnamon